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Granada, Nicaragua is Beautiful

Granada, Nicaragua

 

I never decided to go to Granada, Nicaragua.

 

Granada, Nicaragua market

 

Less than twenty-four hours earlier I was en route to Puerto Viejo. I had planned to spend the next few months settling in.

 

The Garden Cafe Granada

 

Finding the clarity I needed to determine my next adventure. Conserving the energy I spent simply trying to survive and channel it into projects I had neglected on the road.

 

Granada, Nicaragua

 

I couldn’t wait to be back on my bicycle. To cook myself dinner. To see my friends. To return to the closest sense of normalcy I have experienced in more than a year.

 

The Garden Cafe Granada, Nicaragua

 

But the night before I planned to go, something inside me did not feel ready. Something in me feared that if I went back to Puerto Viejo I might never leave.

 

Granada, Nicaragua fruit market

 

I worried I might lose my wanderlust spirit and become stuck.

 

Granada, Nicaragua fish market

 

This decision weighed heavily on me.

 

Granada, Nicaragua iglesia

 

So I did what I often do when presented with a difficult choice:

I relieved myself of all responsibility and instead let the universe decide.

 

Granada, Nicaragua fruit market

 

It chose Granada.

 

Granada, Nicaragua church

 

And there, in the beautiful, hectic, colonial city, I was reminded why I love this life of travel.

 

Granada, Nicaragua market

 

I wandered the quieted early morning streets

 

Granada, Nicaragua market

 

eating fruit freshly cut on the road

 

Granada, Nicaragua street food

 

fried balls of yucca dipped in honey

 

Granada, Nicaragua street food

 

and the most incredible pupusa known to man.

 

Granada, Nicaragua street

 

I never felt more alive.

 

Granada, Nicaragua iglesia

 

I marveled at stunning churches

 

Granada, Nicaragua street

 

stairs

 

Granada, Nicaragua street

 

and streets.

 

Granada, Nicaragua street art

 

I chatted with locals

 

Granada, Nicaragua street art

 

whose rapid Spanish

 

Granada, Nicaragua street art

 

humbled my sassy spirit.

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

I photographed

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

every

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

beautiful

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

door

 

Granada, Nicaragua doors

 

unblocked by passing cars.

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

I escaped the heat of the city

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

in a mecca

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

with a spa and a pool

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

and the meanest little residents

 

Hotel Spa Granada

 

who nipped at my head and toes.

 

Mombacho volcano Nicaragua

 

I climbed to the top of volcanoes

 

Las Isletas Granada

 

explored tiny islands

 

Las Isletas Granada

 

swam in a cool blue lagoon.

 

Expressionista Granada, Nicaragua

 

I took the wrong bus

 

Expressionista Granada, Nicaragua

 

but found my new favorite café

 

Bell Tower of Iglesia Merced

 

I climbed

 

Bell Tower of Iglesia Merced

 

to the top of a tower

 

Carnival in Granada, Nicaragua

 

moments later saw a Carnival parade.

 

Sunset in Granada, Nicaragua

 

I became lost

 

Sunset in Granada, Nicaragua

 

early and often

 

Sunset in Granada, Nicaragua

 

but the universe always led me

 

View of Granada, Nicaragua

 

exactly where I needed to be.

 

Where to Stay in Granada, Nicaragua

 

Hostel El Momento

$8 for a dorm bed, private rooms start at $14

Hands down one of my favorite hostels I have ever stayed in. The rooms are large and spacious, even the dorm boasts big double beds. The communal area is adorably decorated and feels comforting, like home. The staff is kind, accommodating, and helpful. And somehow, in a city with incredible cuisine, the onsite restaurant has some of the best and most affordable food around. Try the thai red curry with loads of veggies and local raw cashews.

 

Hotel Spa Granada

Rooms start at $59 per night including full buffet breakfast, daily pool use, and one spa treatment per day

Hotel Spa Granada is inside of a beautiful old colonial building. The rooms, the gardens, the pool, and the views are all stunning. Enjoy a buffet breakfast each morning with gallo pinto, eggs, fruit, granola, toast, coffee, and juice. Spend time at the pool when you burn out from the heat of the street. Enjoy a massage, manicure, pedicure, or facial e.v.e.r.y.d.a.y. For $60 it doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Hotel con Corazon

Single rooms start at $62 per night

This hotel has style. Consider it the Ace of Nicaragua. Rooms are air conditioned with private bathrooms and plenty of storage. The rate includes the use of a nice outdoor pool, wifi, great communal areas, an extremely friendly, helpful staff and breakfast. So what’s with the name? They donate 100% of profits to support local children with tutoring programs, extracurricular activities, and even sponsored tuition for those moving onto university.

 

Backpacker’s Inn

$15 for a dorm bed

This might be the fanciest hostel I’ve ever stayed in… and I’ve stayed in a lot of hostels! It may be much pricier than other hostels in Granada, but the communal spaces are as beautiful and well decorated as some of the nicest hotels in the area and there is a big outdoor pool guests can enjoy.

 

Where to Eat in Granada, Nicaragua

 

The Garden Café

$3-5 for breakfast, $4-6 for lunch

Come to The Garden Cafe to sit and read one of their many books on a cozy couch or chair, sip on a cappuccino, nibble on a freshly baked muffin, and observe the Granada expat community. Enjoy a healthy breakfast or lunch with fresh fruit and vegetables and other local ingredients. Purchase organic farm produce when available.

 

Café de los Suenos

$5-8 for lunch

Is your body craving an enormous, satisfying salad? Head to Cafe de los Suenos immediately. For $6 they load roasted beets, avocado, grilled chicken, feta cheese, bell peppers, and bacon on top of a big bed of lettuce. It might be the best salad I’ve ever eaten in a restaurant. The space is lovely, as is the staff. Quiche, lasagna, crepes, and panini also grace this french inspired menu.

 

Expressionista

$2-10 for breakfast, lunch, and treats

An absolutely beautiful cafe and shop owned by expats from Spain. The interior is positively inspired, the organic food is delicious, and the perfect little treats will tempt you to come again and again. Treat yourself to the lovely iced tea, cold coconut water, and yogurt berry cheesecake if they have it.

 

El Zaguan

$15 for local steak

The ambience may make you feel a bit like you’ve landed in the Olive Garden of Central America, but give it a chance. It’s the most famous restaurant and steakhouse in Granada for a reason. The steaks are tender, perfectly cooked and served alongside local favorites like grilled plantains and celery sauce.

 

On the street

$0.50

It may not be healthy. It may not be safe. But it is delicious. And cheap. Savor a life changing pupusa made from flattened cornmeal dough stuffed with local cheese, grilled hot and crispy topped with vinegary cabbage salad. Eat seasoned fried chicken on top of crisp plantain chips. Taste unfamiliar goodies that catch your eye. Stock up on inexpensive fish, fruit, vegetables, eggs, and cheese at the local market if you’re lucky enough to have a kitchen.

 

What to Do in Granada Nicaragua

 

Wander the streets

Free

Days can easily be spent simply wandering the streets with your eyes and a camera. Enjoy the beautiful technicolor painted colonial architecture. Sit in the park by the fountain. Let your eyes feast at the colorful markets. Soak in the beauty that is Granada.

 

Swim at the Laguna de Apoyo

$12 for a tour through one of the many hostels

Just outside of Granada is the stunning natural wonder called the Laguna de Apoyo. It is a clean, blue, body of water that rests inside of the crater of a volcano. Make sure to be dropped off at The Monkey Hut to lounge on docks, eat at the restaurant, use complimentary kayaks, and take a long swim.

 

Take a tour of the Isletas

$20 for an all day tour of the isletas.

One of Granada’s many majestic offerings is its proximity to Lake Nicaragua and the many beautiful tiny islands nearby. Explore on a boat, then stop, eat, rest, swim, kayak. Perfection.

 

Climb to the top of Mombacho

$15 for transport to the top, $5-10 for guided tours

Walking to the top of Mombacho is entirely possible, it is also incredibly grueling. Do yourself a favor and save your energy for the many trails at the top. Enjoy stunning views of Granada, the isletas, and the surrounding countryside.

 

Escape the heat at Hotel Spa Granada

$5 for all day pool use, come and go as you please. $8-30 for spa services, $55 for a manicure, pedicure, facial, hour long massage, and eyebrow wax…what?!

Granada is absolutely beautiful, but damn is it hot. I spent nearly every afternoon when the sun was at its strongest, bathing in the cool water of the private courtyard pool. Beware of the three evil ducks who act as gatekeepers surrounding the adorable white kitten. They will bite and attack you. The spa services are excellent and shockingly affordable.

 

Center yourself at Pure Spa

 

$5 for a gym or yoga pass, acupuncture starting at $17, full spa services at a screaming deal

A day of pampering at Pure Spa is necessary. Daily attendance is even better. Skilled teachers offer Vinyasa yoga classes several times daily, a full gym is available for your own routine, and you can take advantage of exceptional spa services like acupunture, reiki, and massage for next to nothing. They service detoxifyingly delicious green juice all day for only $1 and yummy vegetarian meals for $5. You may wonder if you’ve died and gone to wellness heaven.

 

Climb to the top of the Tower of Merced

$1 for entrance to the top, tower closes at 5:30pm

A short climb to the church’s bell tower offers beautiful views of Granada and Mombacho. The bell rings on the hour and it’s an impressive site to see a strong man rock that bell! This spot is ideal at sunset when a warm glow washes over the town and the apse of the cathedral becomes a lovely silhouette against the pink sky.

 

Visit the Calzada at night 

Free or very expensive depending how soft your spot is

Watch street performers, have a drink, and mingle with locals on the liveliest strip in Granada. Vendors may hassle you, stay strong and you won’t be a target.

 


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Comments

  1. Beautiful photographs! You really made me miss Granada (it’s been almost 4 years since I have been)

  2. I just wanted to let you know how much I am enjoying your blog. Your words and photographs are thoughtful, honest and contemplative. They are absolutely refreshing in this increasingly speedy and aggressive world. I admire your brave choice to live deliberately and appreciate your sharing both your internal and external experiences. Although I am older than you and have a house and kids now, you are bringing back to me the days of my own travel, which I cherish so deeply. Thank you for sharing all that you do here!

    • Thank you so much Linda. You have no idea how encouraging your compliment is :) Enjoy your life of home and nesting, your memories of travel, and your future which can be anything you want!

      • :) Yes, I’m rather impatiently waiting for my daughters to reach the age where they can accompany our adventures!

        Keep doing what you’re doing!

  3. Amandinette Says: May 16, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Love this post- a picture story, always my favorite and you did it so beautifully! Your photographs are really lovely and your skill is definitely being honed in to the unique details of each place. I would love to visit Granada some day!

  4. ThisChicagoGirl Says: May 19, 2013 at 7:12 am

    I just fell in love with this blog post!! Visiting Granada next weekend and cannot wait! Thank you!!,

  5. These photos are great! I also love how you just kinda went with the flow. I love doing that. Most of my best times come from unplanned adventures. :)

  6. […] lacks the architecturally layered fascination of Panama City, the hopelessly picturesque appeal of Granada, and the perfectly restored colonial squares of […]

  7. […] route from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica to Granada, […]

  8. patty mcguire Says: August 18, 2013 at 8:49 am

    Thank-you so much for all the amazing info, we are going for 3 weeks in October and I am logging it all in a journal so we don’t miss a thing! Love the tips about the all day pool pass and the gym!

  9. Your photographs are beautiful
    works of Art. Visual music to my soul. :o}

  10. Jim Everett Says: October 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Passed through Granada just after the revolution (we drove from CR to LA). It was said that Granada survived the war so well because both sides grandparents lived there. Created CR’s second French restaurant in Turrucares de Alajuela back in 1981 and kept it going till 1995. Have you visited the very fine expat bookstore/cafe in (I think) San Juan del Sur on the coast? Very cool people. You’re a good travel writer, hope you’re making some kind of living doing it so that you can keep traveling.

    • This American Girl Says: October 23, 2013 at 5:05 pm

      Thanks Jim, and thank you for sharing your wisdom! I haven’t been to San Juan del Sur or anywhere on Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast for that matter. Definitely need/want to go back and see more.

  11. I love your post and your photos. Thanking you for sharing all your love of our beautiful colonial city. In your to do list, I would add Granada is also a great spot to learn Spanish! Check out our Website 😉

  12. Camille,

    I just want to say – I literally just discovered your blog tonight while googling the Corn Islands in Nicaragua. I am also American, about to embark on a solo trip through Central America. All my family and friends have expressed concerns and doubts over my safety, and I was starting to even question the trip myself. Finding your blog and seeing a savvy traveller such as yourself visiting these same places I plan to go, seeing that you had a great time… it really makes me feel a lot better. Your photos are beautiful and I can’t wait to be there! Thanks so much for sharing your stories and tips. I’m DEFINITELY going to be stopping in for $60 spa treatments.

    • Camille Willemain Says: August 2, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      Kate thank you so much what nice compliments! You totally can do it girl and please keep me updated on your travels :)

  13. We will be spending this month of October in Granada and are experiencing sensory overload! Such brilliant colors, wonderful flavors and helpful locals. Got a lot of good suggestions from your blog.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing!! I’ve been wanting to go to Nicaragua so bad and this was the first real inside view I’ve seen. Will definitely be looking back to this post down the road.

    http://www.cinnamonstreet.co

  15. I recently spent two days in Granada and honestly, it was my favorite city in Central America so far. I would definitely go back and spend a longer period of time… and eat at Café de los Suenos every day. That was my favorite spot other than the Spa Resort where I got a choco mani/pedi!

  16. Love the post!

    Just wondering if you were travelling completely alone? Did you just take w/e random cabbie would drive you to Granada from MGA airport or rent a car? Went to Granada last year, straight after landing at the airport and it was such a long and desolate car ride that I have doubts about doing it alone (I was with my hubby the last time). Plus this time I want to go to San Juan del Sur which is even further . . . Was safety ever an issue in Nicaragua? Same for Corn Island (bc this spot is def on my list of must do’s) Thx!

    • Camille Willemain Says: March 17, 2015 at 3:39 pm

      Yes I traveled alone :) I can’t say about the ride from the airport, as I took the bus in the day from Managua. I’ve also taken the bus many times from Costa Rica. I’ve never had safety be an issue in Nicaragua, except for the time when I took a cab at night and the driver was trying to scam me on the exchange rate very badly. I wasn’t in danger, and if I hadn’t spoken Spanish or had known the exchange rate it wouldn’t have been an issue. Little Corn Island felt extremely safe to me :)

  17. Oh my God, your pictures make me wanna cry! Wonderfullll! Are you heading back to Nicaragua ever or just hopping to another country? Did you find it easy to travel within Nicaragua itself? And which other cities in Nicaragua did you visit?
    Looking forward to your response, I am verrrrrry curious :)

    • Camille Willemain Says: May 28, 2015 at 3:37 pm

      Yes, hope to be back there sometime this year. My fave spot in Nicaragua is Little Corn Island, check out my Travel Destinations page for my travel guides to Nicaragua. It’s a very easy country to travel in, and cheap!

  18. […] lacks the architecturally layered fascination of Panama City, the hopelessly picturesque appeal of Granada, and the perfectly restored colonial squares of […]

  19. Emilie savioz Says: August 20, 2015 at 9:50 am

    Hello just discover UR webpage and love UR picture travelling Also for months and arrive in Granada few days ago and don’t stop to extend my night at the hostel is search a beautiful city a lot of art
    I have a question for u first I search a place to wax I thought u were the right person to ask because I could understand u know this city pretty well and second a place to watch movie ?
    Thank u hope I would meet u but never stop ur page is incredible picture thanks to share a little of ur life

  20. This post was exactly what I was looking for – so helpful! We arrived in Granada today and wanted an idea of things to do, thanks for posting: )